Stop Food Waste With These 9 Plastic Free Food Storage Containers

Whether you’re meal prepping, storing leftovers from dinner, or making yourself a zero waste lunch for work, plastic free food storage containers are a useful and more sustainable option when it comes to safely store food. Whatever your needs, there are lots of alternatives to the all too ubiquitous plastic containers and wraps. 

So in this article, we will be exploring just why it's so important to opt for plastic free storage containers, what the best alternatives are, and some great brands to reach for when shopping for alternatives. 

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Why is plastic free food storage necessary?

While convenient and shatterproof, plastic storage containers bring with them important health and environmental costs to the consumer and to the planet. 

BPA/Phthalates 

According to Harvard Health, studies show that certain chemicals in plastic containers can leach out into the food and beverages they contain. Some of these very chemicals like Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates have been linked to metabolic disorders (including obesity), as well as reduced fertility.

While leaching can occur naturally, it can occur at a faster rate and to a greater degree when the plastic container is exposed to heat. So when we microwave our leftovers in plastic containers, we may also be getting an even higher dose of potentially harmful chemicals. 

Plastic pollution

When it comes to plastic pollution, we’ve generated a whopping 8.3bn tons of plastic since 1950, and only 9% of all the plastic waste ever created has been recycled. Most of it winds up in landfills and the environment at large taking between 400 and 1000+ years to degrade. And, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), at least 8 million tons of plastic waste find its way into our oceans every year, threatening the safety and quality of food, the health of humans, coastal tourism, and contributing to climate change.

By 2050 plastic waste is expected to swell to 12 billion metric tons. Opting for plastic free food containers will help to reduce our contribution to plastic waste and to curb our plastics crisis.

Food waste 

Food waste in plastic bags on footpath. Pin

Food waste is a big problem all over the planet. According to research conducted by the National Zero Waste Council on household food waste in Canada, an estimated 2.2 million tonnes of edible food waste is lost every year, costing Canadians more than 17 billion dollars per year. That’s the equivalent of 9.8 million tonnes of CO2 and 2.1 million cars on the road.

Making sure to store leftovers in the right plastic free containers can therefore go a long way in helping us to curb our contribution to food waste and the emissions associated with their production and disposal. 

If you do not have the means to make the switch from plastics right away, Earth911 recommends looking at the bottom of plastic food storage containers for the following markings: #2, #4, and #5. These plastic products are generally considered safe for food and drink. Avoid containers with the markings: #3, #6, #7.  They are considered high-risk plastics.

Even when using safer plastics, avoid putting them in the microwave and the dishwasher, or storing acidic and greasy foods in them. You can also put your old plastic containers out of service by upcycling them.

Our top picks for the Best plastic free food storage 

Upcycled glass jars - either bought or used 

Glass is probably the best food-safe and most sustainable plastic free food storage option available and you are probably already purchasing lots of it. Old pasta sauce, soup, or jam jars are a great way of replacing plastic containers.

Just make sure to try and remove the label and give it a good wash before repurposing it. You will not only be extending the life of used jars that you’ve already paid for but you will also be reducing the footprint associated with recycling them (or sending them to the landfill) while avoiding exposure to the adverse health effects associated with using plastics instead. 

This is also one of my tips for a zero-waste kitchen. Used jars can be used to store goods in your pantry or to shop for some of your favourite items in the bulk section like nuts, dried fruit, spices, or cocoa powder. 

If you would like more zero waste options check out these easy zero waste swaps

Good quality glass containers 

When shopping for new glass containers, look for quality options made out of tempered glass. You can use them just as you would plastic food storage containers without health concerns. Quality preserve jars work wonderfully for preserving foods at home but also work well here too. Pop them into the microwave without any worries, or use them to safely store foods in the pantry and the fridge, or for zero waste grocery shopping. 

A hand closing a glass jars, a plastic free food container. Pin

These are some of my favourite brands when it comes to good quality glass containers and preserve jars:

Anchor Hocking True Seal

This round glass container by Anchor Hocking makes a great option for your zero waste lunch needs. Safely store salads and other lunchtime goodies without fear of spills and leaks thanks to their BPA-free textured lid which provides an airtight seal. 

The container is made of tempered glass produced in the USA. It is safe for the oven, the microwave, the freezer, and the dishwasher. This makes for a great nonplastic single-serving food storage container option however the lid is made of plastic.

This round glass container by Anchor Hocking makes a great option for your zero waste lunch needs. Safely store salads and other lunchtime goodies without fear of spills and leaks thanks to their BPA-free textured lid which provides an airtight seal. 

The container is made of tempered glass produced in the USA. It is safe for the oven, the microwave, the freezer, and the dishwasher. This makes for a great non-plastic single-serving food storage container option however the lid is made of plastic

Life Without Waste Glass Bento

Here you'll find a bento glass container perfect for anyone looking for zero waste lunch containers, meal prep containers, or just non plastic storage containers in which to store yummy leftovers. 
This eco-friendly container has a leak-resistant bamboo lid and the glass container is oven-safe up to 560 °C. It all comes together to bring you one of the best plastic free reusable food storage containers available.

Weck Canning Jars

This well-reputed company offers a great selection of non plastic food storage alternatives in the form of canning jars. Their jars come in a variety of shapes and sizes that can be used for storing dried goods and leftovers alike. Made in Germany, of high-quality glass, they are also dishwasher and microwave safe, and make great gifts and home decor too.

A woman holding up two Weck jars filled with nuts and seeds. Pin

Stainless steel containers 

Stainless steel containers are durable, corrosion-resistant, non-reactive, and a great option for non plastic food storage containers for children. While they do require mining (since they are made of a mix of metals like iron and chromium), they remain a safer and more sustainable alternative to plastic food storage containers that are more likely to be recycled. 

While they may not be microwave safe, they make the perfect addition to a plastic free or zero waste lifestyle in combination with glassware or any of the other recommendations featured in this article. 

If you would like to shop for some stainless steel containers consider some of my favourites:

Dalcini

Dalcini is one of the best plastic free food storage options available. Their line of stainless steel products includes everything from stainless steel sandwich boxes and lunch sets to stainless steel cup sets and sectioned plates perfect for the little ones or for lunch on the go. All of their products are aluminum-free, lead-free, dishwasher safe, durable, easy to clean, and fully recyclable.

Tiffin

Tiffin offers a selection of tiered stainless steel to-go ware that is perfect for picnics or for storing leftovers, with a clever space-saving design. They are also sturdy, versatile, 100% recyclable, food safe, and can be used for lunch on the go or potlucks too. All around a great non plastic alternative to food storage so be sure to check them out as well.

Life Without Plastic

Life Without Plastic offers a vacuum insulated thermal stainless steel flask, containing absolutely no plastic. It is perfect for carrying soups, chili, hot cocoa, and even hot rum toddies. Or maybe a yummy curry? 

Made of rust-free food-grade stainless steel, it includes a handle so you can easily transport whatever you decide to put in it. Its contents will remain hot for up to 3 hours and stay warm even after 6 hours. Ethically made in China, be sure to check out this wonderful plastic free food storage option as well.

Beeswax wraps and bags

Beeswax wraps and bags are some of the best plastic free food storage containers because they are versatile, reusable, and made of all-natural materials like organic cotton, beeswax, and oils. The wraps can be used just like you would plastic wrap, except they can be cleaned and reused more than once. At the end of their life cycle, they can be composted too.

Beeswax bags on the other hand make a great reusable alternative for plastic storage bags. They can be used to pack lunches, store prepped vegetables or whatever else you would use their plastic counterparts for. Here are my recommendations for beeswax wraps and bags:

Abeego Reuseable Beeswax Food Wrap

Abeego offers reusable beeswax food wraps made of hemp, organic cotton cloth, beeswax, tree resin, and jojoba oil. They are made in Canada too and are ideal for covering bowls, wrapping sandwiches or half-cut avocados or even bread. They are also fully compostable at the end of their life and are an excellent option if you are looking for some beeswax wraps.

A bowl and some herbs wrapped in beeswax wraps. Pin

Etee 

Etee offers several reusable beeswax bags that are great for storing all sorts of foods like sandwiches, leftover pizza slices, cut veggies, fruit, and so much more. 

Completely plastic free, reusable and biodegradable, their beeswax bags are made of USDA approved certified organic beeswax, a touch of soy wax, coniferous tree resin, organic jojoba oil, organic cinnamon and clove essential oils, and organic cotton and hemp blended fabric with non-toxic, eco-friendly dyes. 

If you are looking for non plastic storage for freezing food, these are a great option for that too; just remember not to keep them in there any longer than a month at a time.

Silicone Bags

While silicone bags are not the most sustainable option on the list, mostly because they are not biodegradable, silicone bags are a lot better than plastic food storage bags. They are reusable and have been shown to be safer than plastic when it comes to leaching chemicals into food and beverages. That’s because they are a lot stronger and extremely durable. 

Silicone bags can be used just like you would plastic storage bags and make for a great non plastic storage for freezing food as well since they are also freezer safe. You can put them in the dishwasher or the microwave too but I would recommend you hand wash them and avoid applying heat where possible.

Well.ca offers a wide selection of Stasher reusable silicone bags that are easy to clean and reusable. Safe for the freezer, microwave, and dishwasher (although I do not recommend the latter two), they also make a great option if you are looking for air-tight non plastic food storage bags. Well’s selection comes in a number of sizes, styles, and colour options including the Stasher Stand-up Reusable bag which looks great for prepped vegetables, and the Stasher Reusable Bundle which looks perfect for the little ones or lunch to-go.

Cloth bags & cloth covers 

Cloth bags and cloth covers are a great plastic free alternative to food storage because they are reusable, safer, and made of materials we can trust near our food. They can be used to store whole fruits and veggies, and to cover bowls instead of using plastic wrap. Cloth is also the ideal way of keeping bread that will be eaten up soon from going stale. 

Like beeswax wraps and bags, cloth bags and cloth covers can also come in lots of aesthetically pleasing designs so be sure to consider them too when shopping for plastic free food storage containers.

“Love what you Eat” Fabric Bowl Cover

2 bowls covered with fabric bowl covers. Pin

Your Green Kitchen offers a reusable fabric bowl cover that is both durable and washable. You can use it to bring a dish to a potluck (which is such a great idea) or simply for keeping leftovers fresh at home. They even work to protect your produce from fruit flies, helping to keep them fresher longer. Made of 100% GOTS Certified Organic Cotton, they are 100% backyard compostable, easy to clean and make a great gift for new homeowners or a great hostess gift.

The Swag Produce Bag

A reusable option for keeping produce fresh and crisp for longer, The Swag’s produce bag can be used for a variety of fruits and veggies like grapes, bunches of herbs, lettuce, tomatoes and more. Made from 100% unbleached, unseeded cotton, they are machine washable, and 100% compostable. They are also ethically produced and will help you waste less food and save money while reducing your environmental footprint.  

Final thoughts on Plastic Free Food Storage Containers

While plastics are pervasive and appear to be the most convenient option, the health and environmental repercussions associated with them are worthy of our attention. Thankfully, there are many alternatives within our reach that will help reduce our exposure to the harmful chemicals they leach and curb their consumption altogether.

I hope this guide will help you with that and make your transition away from plastic food containers a little easier. If you would like to continue your plastic-free journey there are lots of things you can do. Consider switching to zero waste dish soap, indoor urban compost bins, biodegradable vs compostable trash bags, or making your fridge plastic-free. I have used all of the items on this list and love them all so much!

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